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A will is a legal document that explains your final wishes. It explains in detail how you'll divvy up savings, investments, homes and other assets. A well-conceived will can ensure that items of monetary or emotional value, and most importantly your children, are protected financially and otherwise in the event of your death. In addition to a will, life insurance is another way you can provide your family with financial security. Keep in mind that the insurance policy, not your will, names the person who is the beneficiary of the death benefits.

Creating a will may seem like a complicated task, but If you’re well organized, the process can be straightforward and efficient. You’ll need to carefully consider your possessions, beneficiaries and the individuals whom you want involved in executing your wishes. Here are some basic steps to help you get started:

Select beneficiaries

Writing a will requires selecting beneficiaries who will inherit your belongings. Make a list of everything you own that's important to you, and specify who gets each item. Start with larger assets, such as your home, vehicle, boat or cabin, and continue the list until everything is assigned to a new owner.

Select an executor

The executor carries out your wishes. Select someone responsible whom you trust, and review the will once it's complete so he or she isn't surprised by any of your requests after you're gone. It’s important to have a family attorney or lawyer review the will to ensure there are no ambiguities within that family members may try to dispute in court. The lawyer can also execute the will to prevent family discord.

Choose a guardian for your kids

If you have any kids under 18, choose someone to care for them. This is often one of the toughest parts of creating a will because it’s a difficult scenario to imagine. However, it's important that you make the decision so you know who your children will be living with. If you die without a will, the courts may get involved and make these important decisions for you.

Sign your will and find witnesses

You must sign your will, and several witnesses must do the same. In some states, a will must be notarized and signed by a specific number of witnesses. Conduct research in your state before finalizing your will to ensure you're following the law. While you can find this information online, it’s helpful to contact an attorney for assurance that you’re not missing any key points. He or she can also review the document to ensure the will has been signed properly and that it meets your state’s legal requirements for validity.

Keep a copy somewhere other than your home

Once your will is finished, give a copy to your executor for safekeeping or put it in your safety deposit box. You want to keep a copy somewhere other than your home in case something happens to you and your home at the same time.

A will can make the transfer of financial and physical assets between family members easier and less costly. But they can also offer psychological comfort — namely, that you know your wishes for the things and people who matter most to you are being addressed.

There are additional ways you can protect your family and your assets. Learn more about Nationwide's estate planning tools or contact a Nationwide professional.

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